US: Census Citizenship Question Rankles Rhode Island, Site of Only Count Test - - PressFrom - US
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US Census Citizenship Question Rankles Rhode Island, Site of Only Count Test

17:17  15 april  2018
17:17  15 april  2018 Source:   online.wsj.com

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A Rhode Island dress rehearsal for the 2020 census is turning into an early battleground for the Trump administration’s recent decision to ask respondents if they are It is a trial run for the Census Bureau’s decennial population count , which will reshape the congressional district map and determine where

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PROVIDENCE, R.I.—A Rhode Island dress rehearsal for the 2020 census is turning into an early battleground for the Trump administration’s recent decision to ask respondents if they are U.S. citizens.

Last month, residents in Providence County began receiving a federal mailer asking them to answer 10 questions about their age, race and the size of their household. It is a trial run for the Census Bureau’s decennial population count, which will reshape the congressional district map and determine where billions of dollars a year in federal funds are spent.

Days after the government mailed the questionnaires, the Trump administration surprised census advisers with a new twist for the 2020 count: For the first time in decades, it will include a citizenship question.

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The late decision means that question isn’t actually on the Rhode Island test. But elected officials and residents in Providence County, which has a booming Latino population, many of them undocumented, say it nevertheless looms large.

Officials are worried fear of interactions with the federal government, and suspicion the citizenship question could be wielded against them, could make some people less willing to participate in the dry run and the official 2020 count.

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“A lot of people have told me they’re not going to do it,” said Jasmin Leon, who has volunteered through a local church to care for the children of undocumented families should the parents be deported. Even with the practice test, said Ms. Leon, who works for a local education program, “they’re scared that ICE might come,” referring to the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement division.

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Getting an accurate count of the U.S. population is a massive undertaking each decade. The 2020 Census is all the more complicated because of Democrats fear that including a citizenship question will result in undercounts. Republicans and the Trump administration say the question will give

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“That question upsets a lot of people,” said Franklin Solano, a 53-year-old in Central Falls, R.I., who came to the U.S. decades ago from the Dominican Republic and serves on the city council.

The father of five—including a son in the U.S. military and a daughter about to graduate college—is urging others to participate and get counted because it will help the state. But he said fear of the federal government runs deep in his community and has been amplified by rhetoric against immigrants by President Donald Trump.

Deborah Stempowski, chief of the Census Bureau’s Decennial Census Management Division, said so far the Providence test is tracking close to or slightly above projections for responses, with 28.9% of people having responded so far. She declined to say whether news of the citizenship question appearing in 2020 is affecting response rates on the test, which is expected to conclude July 31.

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The cities include two sites of the 2020 census test currently taking place in Rhode Island — Providence and Central Falls — as well Their complaint also alleges that the addition of a citizenship question violates the Administrative Procedure Act because there are sufficient citizenship numbers

Opponents of the added citizenship question said it was certain to depress response to the census from Critics accused the administration of adding the question to reduce the population count in the And although the citizenship question was not tested for inclusion on the 2020 form, he said

The Trump administration has said it needs citizenship data to enforce the Voting Rights Act to protect minorities. A spokesman for the Commerce Department said the need for accurate citizenship data outweighed worries that inclusion of the question will lead to lower response rates.

The state’s largest county is in the national spotlight after the Census Bureau pared down additional 2020 dress rehearsals in West Virginia and Washington state due to budget constraints.

Rhode Island is a heavily Democratic state. Officials there insist their objections to the Census aren’t political, but rather focused on ensuring an accurate count in 2020. The state is on the cusp of losing a U.S. House seat and the census determines how seats are apportioned.

Another challenge: The 2020 census will be the first official count where most people will be encouraged to respond online, forcing an overhaul of the way the bureau gathers and tallies responses.

Brandon Bell, chairman of the Republican Party of Rhode Island, said he is sympathetic to concerns that fear of interacting with the federal government will keep Latinos from filling out census forms. But he said these fears have been inflamed by invective against President Trump by Democrats in Rhode Island and beyond.

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Why is the census citizenship question controversial? When does the count officially start? NPR answers questions about the national head count required by the U.S. Constitution once a A Rhode Island resident holds an envelope he received for the 2020 census test run in Providence County .

The census count will determine which states gain or lose seats in the House of Representatives when redistricting begins in 2021. The citizenship question has been challenged in federal courts in three states, and courts in New York and Maryland have already ruled against its inclusion in the 2020 head

Providence, the state’s largest city, is part of a lawsuit with two dozen states and cities aimed at stopping the citizenship question.

The Rhode Island test faces other challenges. Some local elected officials have expressed concerns that the practice run has been undermined by budget constraints that forced the Census Bureau to cut back on promotions. This is sowing confusion as questionnaires land in mailboxes, said James Diossa, the Democratic mayor in Central Falls.

“Some people got it in the mail and ripped it up,” Mr. Diossa said. His city, where more than 19,000 people are packed into less than 1.3 square miles, is majority Latino. Countywide, Latinos have quickly grown to represent about 22%, or 140,000, of the total population, according to recent census estimates.

Mr. Diossa and counterparts in two other cities, Providence and Pawtucket, recently penned an op-ed in a local paper to argue the census “is being set up to fail.”

Responding to criticism of poor advertising, Ms. Stempowski said the Census Bureau is spreading word of the test by visiting congressional offices and by using social media and videos. It has placed 30 kiosks in Providence-area post offices where people can answer the query. About 68% of Providence households are being targeted to respond online.

One 33-year-old woman from Colombia, who says she is in the U.S. illegally for her daughter’s safety, said she filled out the test questionnaire after reading about why the census is important to Rhode Island. But she also believes the citizenship question will scare people off the official survey.

“They are not going to get answers,” she said, while lunching with her family in Central Falls.

Write to Jon Kamp at jon.kamp@wsj.com and Janet Adamy at janet.adamy@wsj.com

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